Union officials say tougher inspection and maintenance standards for railroad tracks could help prevent dangerous derailments of trains carrying crude oil.
While lawmakers and regulators focus on the strength of oil tank carsand volatility of crude oil, officials of the rail inspectors’ union say track flaws and train speed can be significant factors in accidents.
WASHINGTON – The Obama administration needs to take steps immediately to protect the public from potentially catastrophic oil train accidents even if it means using emergency authority, National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman said Wednesday.
The NTSB investigates accidents. The Transportation Department is drafting regulations to toughen standards for tank cars used to transport oil and ethanol, as well as other steps to prevent or mitigate accidents. But there isn’t time to wait for the cumbersome federal rulemaking process — which often takes many years to complete — to run its normal course, Hersman said.
WASHINGTON – In response to a deadly train derailment last summer, the Canadian government Wednesday ordered the country’s railroads to phase out tens of thousands of older, puncture-prone tank cars from crude oil transportation within three years.
Though Transport Canada and its U.S. equivalent, the Department of Transportation, have been working together to address widespread concerns about the safety of moving large quantities of crude oil and ethanol in trains, the announcement puts Canada a step ahead.
The recent spate of accidents in the U.S. and Canada involving trains carrying crude oil demonstrates that “far too often, safety has been compromised,” the head of the top U.S. transportation safety agency said today.
The amount of crude oil transported on railroads — shipments that frequently pass through the Chicago area — has more than quadrupled since 2005, and some of it is especially volatile, said National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman.
Rail-safety advocates and members of Congress are calling for stricter tank-car safety standards in the wake of a major oil-by-rail accident this week, an appeal that took on new urgency Thursday with the release of a federal advisory that oil from North Dakota’s Bakken formation may be more flammable than other types of crude.
A train carrying crude oil from the Bakken ran off the rails near Casselton, N.D., on Monday, leading to a voluntary evacuation of nearby residents. The accident occurred when freight cars carrying crude oil struck a train that had derailed earlier in the day. No injuries were reported but the crash sparked an inferno and reignited concerns over the potential dangers of shipping oil by rail.